Let us consider one of the greatest mysteries in the world that people have tried hard to understand: The mystery of evil. How did evil begin in a world that was created by a perfectly good God Who is full of wisdom? Why has God permitted evil to exist and to spread so much? Why does evil have the upper hand in every part of the world? Why is there so much sickness, poverty, and sorrow? Isn’t God interested in helping us?
There is an answer to this question of why God has allowed evil to exist. Is it because God could not control it? Very often we find people suffering in so many ways in different parts of the world, and our hearts are moved – how much more the heart of God, Who is full of compassion?
Before we proceed further, we need to understand that our human reasoning cannot tell us what God is really like. A dog cannot understand a human being because a human being is higher in the levels of creation than a dog. In the same way, we cannot understand God. If a dog is to understand a human being, it must be taught human commands by the human being himself.
Likewise, if we use our mind to understand God, it would be as foolish as a dog trying to understand a human being; it’s impossible. We must instead allow God to reveal Himself to us.
That’s what we read in the Bible: God has revealed Himself to us in His Word. In the Bible, we read of a God who is interested in a personal relationship with every single human being on the face of the earth. He’s intensely, deeply interested in every single detail in our life. God is full of wisdom; He’s Almighty, All-Powerful, All-knowing; He knows the future, and has total control of the whole universe – not only this earth, but the whole universe with it’s millions of stars. God is infinitely pure, we cannot understand His purity. He’s also infinitely loving; full of love, full of goodness. God’s love is totally unselfish. Very often, the love that we see on earth is a selfish love, but not God’s love. His love is totally unselfish. Right from the beginning when He created Man, God wanted to share His joy and happiness with others, and with us. That’s why He created living beings. Before He created man and the human race, we read in the Bible that God created millions of angels. Long before He created human beings, His purpose in creating angels was that He might share His happiness and His glory with all of them.
When God created angels, He created them with a free will. When God created the stars and the planets, He did not create them with a free will. The planets, for example, rotate around the sun with perfect timing. They never slip up; they have been doing that for ages. And they have never disobeyed the laws God has made for them. Every star in the universe moves in an orbit designed by God. The Earth moves on its own axis in perfect split-second timing, in perfect obedience to God’s commands which were put into it ages ago. But when we consider the angels and the human race, God created them with a free will. In other words, unlike the planets, stars, plants, and trees, God created the angels and the human race with a freedom to choose whether we wanted to obey God or not; whether we would obey Him or not. The plants grow, and naturally obey the laws of nature which God has put into them. They don’t have freedom to choose to disobey. This is why a star, or planet, or tree, or plant can never become evil because they have no freedom of choice. And though trees and plants may do us a lot of good because God has created them to be useful, they cannot do good out of their own voluntary choice. A planet, star, or tree cannot do any good out of its own choice. A tree grows according to certain laws of nature built into it, and thus, has no choice. So we can conclude that these beings which have no choice; these arts of creation like the stars, planets, and trees can neither do good nor evil. They’re like programmed robots. If you had a computerised robot in your home, you could program it to pick up your slippers and do many other things. The robot could to bring in the newspaper, perhaps even make a cup of coffee. There are several things you could program a robot to do. But the robot would not have any feelings of its own. It would never disobey you if you programmed it correctly; it would do every single thing that you ever wanted it to do. God could have made man like that robot, where we would never do anything wrong, but would automatically, blindly, and dumbly as it were, obey God in everything. But God never wanted a race of people like that.
They could never be His children. Robots could never be our children even though they obey. Any father would say, “I’d rather have a naughty, disobedient son of my own than an obedient robot.” It is the same with God. Do you know how robots and machines bring no joy to a childless couple? Do you know why human fathers would rather have a disobedient son than an obedient robot? Because we are made in the likeness of God, we have something of God’s nature in us. Married couples long to have children. They’re never happy with obedient machines, they want children. And there we see the heart of God: God’s also interested in children. Our children can turn out to be disobedient, and can bring a lot of sorrow to our hearts. And there we understand why God created the angels and human beings with a free will, unlike the stars and planets. This is the first thing that we need to understand: Free will is the first essential for one to be a moral being. And if we don’t have free will, we cannot become moral beings. And the second essential is a conscience; something within us that tells us what is right and wrong.
Let us consider birds and animals, they also have a free will – they are better than trees and stars in their ability to choose. A dog can choose to obey or disobey. But they are not moral beings; they have no sense of morality because they don’t have have a conscience. Though they have free will, they don’t have a conscience. But we as humans have the two essentials necessary for morality: we have a free will and a conscience. The lack of these two essentials is why birds and animals can never become sinful or holy, or become children of God. A dog cannot be a child of God because it doesn’t have a conscience. You can train a dog over a period of time, and teach it certain things it should do or not do, but the resulting obedience is not because of an inbuilt conscience but because of external training. This training is similar to teaching a computer by programming it to do certain things a certain way.
But when we consider the human race, we have a conscience. Before the human race was created God made all the angels. He created millions of angels, all with a free will. Among the angels, there was one who was the leader. His name was Lucifer. The Bible says, in Ezekiel 28:12-15, that he was created perfect in wisdom and beauty, and given a high position. But gradually he began to have thoughts and ambitions in his mind that were not good. How did that happen? Because he had a free will, and that’s where evil first began in this universe.
Not only were Lucifer’s thoughts evil; they were also proud and rebellious thoughts of discontent with the lot that God had appointed for him. Until then, the universe was perfectly pure, but now, evil had lifted up its head in the heart of a person God had created. That is how evil came into the world. Initially this evil that was in the heart of Lucifer the angel did not manifest itself externally in any way. Evil always begins in the heart. Even a murder is planned by a man in his heart, and from the heart it goes out into action; that’s how it was with Lucifer too. But as soon as this evil came up in his heart, God could see it. God can see into a person’s heart, and God cast out Lucifer from His presence. So there we learn something: God hates evil. But when He created a moral being, He had to give that moral being a free will. There is the origin of evil.
But there is a solution that God has made through Jesus Christ, and we want to consider that in greater detail. Let us remember this about evil; that it is not outside of God’s control. Evil is something God knew was coming, yet He permitted it, He accepted it, and He has provided a solution for it. That solution is in Jesus Christ.
This is part of the Basic Christian Teachings Series, a set of 72 short messages presented by Zac Poonen. You can download the audio mp3 files or listen to Basic Christian Teachings by clicking here.